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Army’s Alleged Cold Blooded Murder Of Civilians In Pathribal, And The Massacre Of Justice Under AFSPA!

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By John A Raju:

A cold blooded massacre. An act whose perpetrators are clear. A passive response from those who should take action. A public outcry. A commission, an investigation and a trial. A verdict after a decade and a half. End result: perpetrators acquitted, more public outcry, democracy deceived. Similar script, similar climax, different actors. Except, this isn’t a movie. This is real life injustice sanctioned and carried out by the Indian Army without having to suffer the consequences a murder of this scale usually brings. I am referring to the clean chit given to the Army in the Pathribal ‘fake encounter’ case.


The Pathribal case brings to light the darkest extent of the powers the Army enjoys as part of the military occupation of Kashmir. Though the Pathribal incident took place on 25 March 2000, its genesis was the Chattisinghpora massacre (which wasn’t even investigated satisfactorily). On 20 March 2000, on the eve of Bill Clinton’s visit to India, around 15 unidentified men dressed in Indian Army outfit ordered Sikh boys and men of the Chattisinghpora village to assemble at the village gurdwara. They were then shot and killed. 36 casualties. A unit of the Rashtriya Rifles stationed nearby failed to intervene and this attack on civilians left just one survivor, Nanak Singh. The attack was seen as an attempt to create communal tensions on the arrival of the US president. However, no terrorist outfit took up the responsibility of the attack and even before an investigation was under way, the LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen were accused by the Indian government of carrying out the murders. Theories still abound on who were the perpetrators of this incident. However, five days later, the Army in collaboration with the police rounded up and killed five men in the Pathribal village. The Army claimed these men were the “foreign militants” responsible for the Chattisinghpora incident. After a gunfight, they were subsequently blown up in a hut where they took shelter from gunfire. Their bodies were charred beyond recognition. Without even a post mortem, the bodies were buried.

But truth cannot be buried so easily. Or so we thought. Under relentless pressure from activists and village witnesses, local authorities were forced to investigate these killings. The bodies were exhumed and DNA tests conducted. Here is where we see the limit of cold bloodedness. The DNA samples collected were faked to show that these men were foreign militants. It led to the heart breaking statement of Raja Bano, mother of the deceased Zahoor Dalal, “I do not need DNA tests to recognize my son”. When the cover up was discovered and original DNA obtained, it was conclusively established that the murdered were innocent civilians and not foreign militants. This proved that the Pathribal killings were a staged drama, a fake encounter. After this, the CBI investigation clearly established the roles of Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Major Bijendra Pratap Singh, Major Sourabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan played in this mass murder and even told before the Supreme Court that these were premeditated “cold blooded murder and the officials deserved exemplary punishment”. However, under the immunity provided by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), they couldn’t be tried in a normal court. The Supreme Court sought sanction to try the Army officials or told the Army to court martial them. Naturally, the Army has to protect its children, however unruly they are. So, court martial was finally done. And in a drama that spanned almost 14 years, “shockingly”, the murderers have been acquitted. Truth cannot be buried “easily” but it can certainly be buried.

World’s largest democracy? Not for the select few in the Indian Army who are occupying the Kashmir valley. For them, it is a free hand in anything they do, be it murder, rape, torture or looting. After all, there is the dreaded AFSPA to protect them. When the lawbreaker and lawmaker are one, where can there be justice? Where can the innocent families go to seek the truth about what happened to their own? Without a transparent trial, the Army men who murdered civilians without any justification are walking free, probably laughing about the joke of a court martial and sipping their military quota of booze. Injustice & cold bloodedness aren’t strong enough words to describe this verdict.

What this acquittal does is to further the animosity between the Army and the Kashmiris. Even the Army members who genuinely want to protect the population become hated figures. Seeing someone in that uniform daily traveling up and down your street, brandishing guns, is not a particularly pleasing sight in a valley known for its picturesque landscape. That this protector could be your destroyer too is an even more damning thought.

It is depressing and degrading that the lives of the Kashmiris are held in scant regard in a nation priding on its diversity. The Army’s unregulated power in this region must be repealed. In whatever manner the Kashmir issue is resolved, the Army’s fearless foray into the everyday events of this region must be halted. The civilians must have their rights and they must be given assurances in action and not just in words, that injustices done to them, by anyone, won’t go unpunished. If not done soon, then even as similar scripts play out, there will be a twist at the climax and some day that story is going to have a more gory end.

A protest demonstration demanding reopening of the case and repeal of AFSPA is being organised at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi tomorrow. Click here for the event details.

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  1. A.A Rizvi

    Hats off to you Mr. Raju for joining a small group of Indians who recognize the Indian occupation of Jammu & Kashmir. Hope more true Indians join this bandwagon and help their fellow ‘pseudo’ Indians in getting rid of the prejudice. Please tell them Pathribal is just one among many….Gawkadal, Bijbehara, Sopore, Kupwara, Kuna-Poshpora, Shopian…. we have as many massacres as we have hamlets!

    1. John A Raju

      Thank you Mr. Rizvi, though I haven’t learnt as much about all these massacres, the occupation of Kashmir and the rampant human rights violation by the Army there is something we all must recognize.

  2. Prashant Kaushik

    If Army is withdrawn and Kashmir granted freedom, do u think there would be peace ?

    Similar movements for autonomy and freedom would spring up in several other states like Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Bengal and so on. The fire will spread to entire country. India would be soon balkanised into many 18th century type independent states but not before bloodshed of millions of its citizens ?

    Do you think there would be peace after that ?

    The emergence of new states would lead to breakdown of economic, industrial and agricultural activities. Starvation, famines, war would become a frequent phenomenon.
    Food scarcity, water scarcity, resources scarcity, no central authority, no governance, wars, riots, the entire humanity would perish in this Indian Subcontinent.
    Even Pakistan wud not benefit in the long learn. It shall too see the rise of separatists movements in its provinces like Balochistan.

    If humanity has to survive in Indian subcontinent, it is imperative that India remains United, Trust me or not, that is a win win situation for every human being living in this subcontinent.. even for the Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Nepal etc.

    If you have any doubts, refer 18th century Medieval/Modern history – how after the decline of Mughal Rule, with rise of ethnic separatist states., India was plunged into an era of civil wars and political subjugation.

  3. John A Raju

    I haven’t explicitly opposed the occupation of the Kashmir valley by the Army. It is the undemocratic powers vested on them that must be questioned and taken action upon. If anyone in the name of being in the Army can go about murdering or raping, what security is there for the population? Aren’t the Kashmiris a part of our population too? Should the massacre of a few innocents be excused just because the Army carried it out? The Pathribal case was a clear violation of human rights, the victims deserve justice. The occupation of Kashmir is a different matter. What matters here is the large scale crimes carried out by a lot of Army men under the shield of AFSPA. The Kashmiri population deserves to live with greater peace and security, not in the fear that any Army intervention in their lives are going to go unquestioned and unopposed.

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